Author: Heather Grey PM
*NEWLY REVISED* To start this story, you need to begin with the end. And the end is this: Do not deny the existence of Santa Claus. Contains graphic images and some language. One Shot.Rated: Fiction M - English - Horror/Suspense - Words: 7,395 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 7 - Published: 12-23-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2453806
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Rated: R or M
Summary: To start this story, you need to begin with the end. And the end is this: Do not deny the existence of Santa Claus. Contains graphic images and some language. [One Shot]
A/N: Twisted, yes. I'm I sorry? No!
By: Heather Grey
The wind was howling outside, the sky was dark gray with snowflakes falling with such fury. It was, indeed, one heck of a snowstorm taking place.
Elbows splayed across the window pane as a pair of wide youthful blue eyes stared outside with wonderment.
"Sara, get away from the window!"
The young girl turned around to face her irate teenage sister. "But it's snowing!" she whined. "I want to watch!" She pursed her lips into a pout.
Candice narrowed her hazel eyes at her six-year-old sister. "Oh yeah. Snow falling is such a big deal. Like it never happens every year."
"I like it," Sara replied, sticking her tongue out. "It means Christmas is coming."
"Christmas comes whether or not it snows, knucklehead."
"Well, Santa Claus loves snow!"
The older girl threw her head back and laughed. "Santa? Please, tell me you haven't figured it out yet."
"Figured out what?" Sara asked innocently.
Candice moved closer to her and bent down to her level.
"Why… Santa doesn't exist. Mom and Dad put our gifts under the tree. I knew the truth before I was six! God. You're so pathetic."
"Na-huh! Santa's real!" Sara insisted as tears began to swim in her eyes. "Y-y-you're n-not going t-to get p-presents C-Candice!"
"You're not going to get presents Candice!" she mimicked in a high-pitch voice. "Put a rock in it sis. I'm getting them whether or not if I believe in silly old Santa."
Sara gazed at her sister, trying hard not to cry but her bottom lip began to quiver and before she knew it, large crocodile tears were falling down. She hated the weak, helpless feeling Candice made her feel. It only made her feel more like a baby.
Candice sighed, a little annoyed that her sister did not have a backbone. And she did feel somewhat guilty for taking it too far. "Stop crying. Look, I'm sorry. Okay?"
Sara sniffled. "W-w-why do you do that?"
"It's in my nature. The older sibling picks on the younger. It's an unwritten law for all siblings."
"Never mind. How about I'll tell you a story to make it up? It's a Christmas one."
That stopped the tears. "Like The Christmas Carol?"
"No… it's better than that. It's about Santa."
"Oh yay!" Sara cheered. She ran over to the recliner and hopped onto it. She bounced on the cushion excitingly. "I like it already!"
A mischievous smirk covered Candice's face. "It's more like a Christmas horror story."
Sara's smile fell. "You know I don't like those kinds of stories."
"I'll edit it for you. Besides, every kid should know this story. It's kind of a rite of passage to adulthood. A lesson on life sort to speak. But if you don't want me to tell it…. Okay, I won't tell it—"
"No! No, please tell it!"
"Not if you're going to get scared."
Sara fervently shook her head. "I promise! I won't get scared!"
"All right." Candice sat on the couch, opposite the recliner. "To start this story, you need to begin with the end. And the end is this: Do not deny the existence of Santa Claus."
"But you just did—"
"Do you want me to tell the story or not?" Candice snapped. Sara nodded. The former sighed before starting once again. "Okay. As I said, do not deny the existence of Santa Claus. It could bring ill tidings to a person if they dare say anything bad about him. It pretty much explains why only wonderful, good things are said about him. But… someone did not heed this warning. And a group of friends discovered this the hard way right here in Applewood…"
Christmas Eve, 1982
It was silent. Too silent.
Kristen was on high alert. Part of her was wounded—the slick, wet substance trickled down her neck into her shirt. And her right leg had reminisces of the frontal attack that occurred ten minutes ago. But she still had the will to continue and fight. Tonight there would be no mercy. Not from her. The sweet, good-natured girl-next-door was on a mission of vengeance.
"There she is! Get her!"
Kristen froze, then she quickly ducked as the snowballs whizzed past her head. Scooping a handful of the snow, she swiftly molded it into a poorly misshapen ball.
"Take that!" With all the force she could muster, Kristen threw her weapon and watched with a victorious glee as it hit its target square in the chest. "You're dead dipshit!"
Stunned, Kristen raised her hand to the back of her head. Her sky blue fingers were covered with a white coating. After the initial shock wore off, Kristen collapsed to the ground. She had failed her fallen comrades. She was dead.
"Kristen Banks, you're so dramatic," said Daniel. "Must you overly exaggerate everything?"
Kristen's eyes flew opened and she gave her friend a smirk. "Part of my charm. But could you help me? I'm kind of stuck." To prove her point, she wiggled her heavily padded imprisoned body.
Rolling his eyes, Daniel grabbed her mitten hand and pulled her up. She dusted off her winter jacket and pants and flashed him a smile. "Where are the others?"
"Well, you got Kenny. And the rest of the troops headed over to my house to warm up. My mom offered snacks."
Her stomach grumbled in response. With a laugh, Kristen shook her head. "I guess all this fighting worked up an appetite. Want to race back?"
Daniel grinned mischievously. "What's the prize?"
Kristen thought for a moment. "The chance to boast your victory for the rest of the day?"
"I was thinking of something entirely else."
Her cheeks flushed at his meaning. "Danny, I told you before. I'm not that kind of girl."
He sighed. "I know… but I can hope can't I?"
"I don't want to have this conversation right now. Not when Kenny is in earshot. I'll meet you at the house."
He watched her leave and kicked the snow, swearing.
"Dude." Kenny was sitting up. "That was sad."
"Shut up Ken," Daniel snapped.
Kristen reached the Pace's house. She stomped her boots on the porch, getting her frustration out on the cement. He always does this! God, why can't he get the hint? She went inside, the door slamming behind her.
The rest of her friends looked at her as well as Mrs. Pace. "Sorry," she said sheepishly. She removed her wet coat, which Mrs. Pace happily took for her.
"It's hot in the laundry room. Go ahead and enjoy the goodies."
"Thank you." Kristen sat on the couch, squeezed between her best friends Lydia and Rachel. "Sorry you guys, but we lost," she told them sadly.
"Yes! Whoo-hoo!" Jumped Dylan. "Take that girls!"
"So? You were the first one to be killed off," Lydia rejoined. "Ambushed by all three of us. Kind of pathetic you couldn't defend yourself from a bunch of girls."
"You caught me by surprise. Could have happened to anyone," Dylan mumbled, sitting down.
The girls exchanged looks and giggled. "Sure," they all said at once.
"Where's Daniel and Kenny?" he asked.
"We're here," answered the former.
"Victory to the almighty penis!" Kenny exclaimed.
"Um, you mean victory to the almighty uterus," Rachel interrupted. "We won every year since we were in the second grade. You guys got lucky that's all."
The three guys shouted at once: "Victory to the almighty penis!"
"Dorks," Lydia murmured. Kristen laughed.
Mrs. Pace reentered with a tray of fresh cookies and mugs of hot chocolate for everyone. "Be careful. It's all very hot."
"Thanks Mom," Daniel replied, biting into the Santa-shaped sugar cookie. Everyone nodded their thanks as they dug into the refreshments to warm up from the chilly weather.
"What are you doing tomorrow?" Rachel questioned all of them.
Kristen shrugged. "The usual. Heading over to my grandma's house."
"Same here," replied Daniel and Lydia.
"I'm driving north to see my relatives," Dylan said.
"Christmas breakfast and lunch at my mom's and dinner at dad's," Rachel said. "Kenny?"
"Here with the old man. We haven't celebrated much lately."
"Sorry man," Daniel told him. The girls nodded.
He shrugged it off. "It doesn't matter."
"What do you want to do now?" Daniel asked everyone. There came a chorus of "I don't know."
"Are you kids excited about Santa coming tonight?" Mrs. Pace sat down in a rocking chair.
"Moooom," Daniel groaned.
"Sorry Mrs. P but Santa is for little kids," Kenny answered. "I don't believe in him."
"Neither do I," agreed Lydia, Rachel, and Dylan.
Mrs. Pace ceased rocking as she stared at them with shock. "You don't mean it, do you?"
The six friends all gazed at each other. "Mom, what's the big deal? I stopped believing too. Didn't you?"
Mrs. Pace quivered. "No. I never stopped believing in him and you should too. He watches and hears everything you do or say."
Kenny snorted. "No offense Mrs. P, but that's a load of crap."
She leaned forward; her eyes hardened to a dark solemn green, her mouth tight as the rest of her features became haggard, aging her ten years before their very own eyes.
"Now, listen to me carefully and heed this warning for I will tell you this only once," Mrs. Pace whispered in a conspiratorial tone. "He does not like non-believers. Anyone who dares to speak out against him will be punished. If you know what's best for your own sake and those you care for, be quiet with this opinion. Or else."
Chills ran down Kristen's spine. The idea of Santa Claus was something she looked forward to with such innocent wonder as a child. Growing older, part of her ceased to believe in the jolly old man; however, the child within, believed in his existence still. She never told her friends, knowing they would tease her relentlessly. Yet, there was something in Mrs. Pace's face that frightened her. Almost as if she spoke from firsthand knowledge.
Lydia broke the tensed silence with laughter. "That's a good one Mrs. Pace. I didn't know you were such a good storyteller."
"Lydia, this is no story. It's the truth. Ask any of your parents. They'll tell you the same thing I told you," she replied gravely.
"My old man doesn't give two farts and a whiz for Saint Nick. The whole thing is bullshit," Kenny said.
Mrs. Pace leaned back in her rocking chair. "Go ahead and disregard what I said. I tried to help you. Now you just doomed yourselves." She stood up and glanced at her son. "Daniel, please, believe me and convince your friends to do the same."
When his mother left the room, Daniel broke down and laughed. "Wow. I never thought my mom would get this offensive about anything. You really shook her up Kenny."
"Crazy lady," he muttered. "Sorry she's your mother."
"Guys, I think she might be telling the truth," Kristen interjected. When they all turned in her direction, she blushed. "I don't know what but maybe we should listen to her and do what she says. As a precaution."
"Kristen, you're just as whacked up as Mrs. Pace," Lydia chuckled. "I don't believe in Santa Claus. You hear that Santa? I DON'T BELIEVE IN YOU!"
"He's probably some pedophile's creation to get close to children without parents knowing. How's that Santa boy? You like the kiddies?" Kenny shouted. "No wonder he's so jolly."
Daniel guffawed. "I wouldn't go near his candy cane. You don't know where it's been."
"Probably explains why Rudolph's nose is so red," smirked Rachel.
"Y-yeah. What is he, some kind of twisted pervert who gives toys to children for their special attention?" Dylan added.
"No Dylan," sighed Rachel, shaking her head at his poor insult.
As the rest of them laughed, Kristen was the only one who remained quiet. "I think you made a mistake. All of you."
"Goody-goody here doesn't like us making fun of Santa. Think about it Kristen. What is he going to do to us? He's not real," Daniel grinned.
She narrowed her eyes. "Fine. Act like jerks. But I refuse to stick around. Hope you have a good Christmas."
"Kristen! We were only joking!" Rachel cried out as Kristen collected her coat to go home. When she was gone, the five friends continued laughing.
She knew she was being silly for letting their comments get to her, but Kristen couldn't help it. As much as she loved her friends, they could be insensitive assholes when they want to be. And this was one of those times.
Sitting on her bed, Kristen thought over Mrs. Pace's words. There was something she was leaving out. She was positive about it. But what?
Her reverie was disrupted by the tap-tap of her window. Looking across, she saw Daniel in his room with a handful of tiny rocks. Opening the window, she stuck her head out. "What do you want?"
"Feisty. Look, Kris, I want to apologize for being a jerk and I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable on you know."
She exhaled. "You're always sorry Daniel. And you constantly do that. When will you learn that I don't want our friendship to change?"
"Kristen, you can't honestly think I believe that. I know you want something more. I can tell in your eyes and I've caught you checking me out in school."
"So?" she gritted between her teeth. "Is that a crime? Danny, I've known you my whole life. You're a brother to me, nothing more."
"Oh please. There's something between us. You and I both know that. There always has been ever since I was seven and I saw your underwear for the first time."
"Yeah because you pulled down my pants!"
"I was such an adorable brat."
"A brat, yes. I wouldn't say adorable."
"Would it be that awful if you and I were together? Would you rather have some other guy who barely knows you be your first?"
"I'll make sure he knows me pretty well before we go that far," Kristen said vehemently. "Night Daniel." She closed and locked her window.
"Kristen? Kristen! Damnit," he swore to himself.
Kenny stumbled into his bedroom. "Damn door. Why did you move?" he slurred and he tripped over his own feet. "Frickin' feet."
Standing in the middle of his room, he tried to take off his shirt, but it was becoming a difficult chore in his drunken state. His father was already deadweight in the living room. He was out before Kenny came home. It was too easy to steal the remaining beers for himself. In the morning, he would tell his father that he was the one who drank all of them, not him. His father always believed him.
Finally, he accomplished taking off his shirt. Next, came off the pants and shoes. He was naked, saved for the tidy-whiteys.
Falling on top of the covers, Kenny laid with his face up to the ceiling. "Santa Claus… cha. Daniel's mom needs to be locked up, stupid bitch."
Closing his eyes, Kenny fell into a dreamless slumber. A few hours later, he awoke to an unusual sound. Rubbing his eyes, he heard what sounded like pattering hooves.
"Yeah right." He shook his head and rolled to his side.
Covering his ears, Kenny squeezed his eyes tight as possible. But it wouldn't stop! The noise was growing louder and louder until silence filled the house.
Relaxing, Kenny attempted to fall asleep once more. He was nearly there when his door flew opened, hitting the wall with an unimaginable force.
Leaping from bed, he turned to the doorway. His eyes widened. "No, no. It can't be!"
A flash of red and white lunged at him, cutting off his screams.
Rachel sat in front of her vanity, brushing her hair with meticulous strokes. "Ninety-eight. Ninety-nine. One hundred."
Grinning, she tossed her hair for good measure. "I love being a girl," she sighed softly.
Dressed in her cotton nightgown, Rachel turned off the lights and crawled into bed. "Next year we'll get the boys. They got lucky that's all."
Yawning, she stretched a little and giggled, "Rudolph… hee hee." It wasn't very long before she fell asleep.
Shortly after, she was startled to hear knocking at her door. Frowning, she called out, "Cut it out Tommy! I'm sleeping!"
The knocking continued.
"Jesus Christ," she muttered, throwing off her covers. Immediately, she was stunned awake from the freezing cold. It never got this cold before. Figuring, her brother was playing with the thermostat again, she wrapped her arms around her and stalked towards the door. "I'm going to kill that dweeb."
Trembling, she opened the door. Her mouth dropped, her eyes flicking back and forth to the two figures standing in front of her. But what captured her attention was a giant candy cane moving side to side.
Christmas morning had a good start to it until Kristen received two disturbing phone calls. Kenny and Rachel… were dead. She couldn't breathe when her mother told her the terrible news.
Kenny was found by his father once he was sober. His throat had been slit opened. His body was covered with deep scratches as if they were done by sharp claws. The terrifying image for his father was the frozen terror in his son's eyes.
A few hours later, Rachel's family called with their news. Little Tommy had discovered his big sister in a position that was unexplainable to his parents. A large plastic candy cane and been shoved into her backside, her nose covered in her blood.
Though, what was strange was that in both deaths, there was a message written on the walls with their blood:
Believe in me
The police determined the deaths as suicides, which the parents readily accepted. An investigation would be futile.
Kristen couldn't believe it when her mother told her this.
"You're saying that's it? It can't be suicide! That doesn't make any sense! I refuse to believe that!"
"Kristen, honey, I know you're upset but the police said it was suicide. We have to accept that. They are the experts."
She stared at her mother in disbelief. "I don't believe you. And you know it's not true either. What is going on?"
"Nothing Kristen. Now, how about we open our gifts before we head over to Grandma's?"
"Mom, my friends are dead. And all you can say is 'let's open gifts'? Forget it." She grabbed her coat and went outside.
Daniel was on his porch when he saw Kristen storming out of her house. He got up and chased after her. "Kris! Wait up!"
Breathlessly, he caught up to her. "I… guess… you… heard."
"I did. God, can you believe it? Suicide! What kind of lame ass answer is that?" She angrily cried.
"Someone did this. I bet they were screaming for help and no one did anything to help them. What parent would refuse to give their child help? Or save them?" Kristen threw her head back and screamed.
"Come here," Daniel said, pulling her into an embrace.
She began crying. "This cannot be real. What the hell happened?"
"I don't know. I don't know." He had no answer for her.
Christmas Eve, 1983
Kristen stared down at the headstones of her two best friends. The families had decided to bury them next to each other, a little far off from the rest of the graves. Bitter tears ran down her cheeks.
A year passed. A year passed and no answers. She had gone to Mrs. Pace and the only thing she had to say was this:
"I tried to warn them, but they brought it upon themselves. It was suicide all right."
Kristen had a feeling that her warning about Santa Claus had something to do with her friends' deaths. Daniel told her to let it go, as did Lydia and Dylan. There was nothing they could do. Kenny and Rachel were dead. They were never coming back.
But Kristen knew they were all lying. Even Mrs. Pace. There was something she was holding back, something she refused to speak of. Whatever it was, it was killing Kristen. She needed to know what happened that Christmas Eve.
"I'll find out. One way or the other. I will," she promised. "Good-bye and Merry Christmas."
She bent down and laid a rose on each grave. At least they're parents had the courtesy in getting them grave blankets, she thought. Ever since Kenny and Rachel died, their parents practically disowned them, hardly acknowledging them. It made Kristen irate but her parents told her it wasn't her business. Yet, Kristen made it hers. Someone had to look after them and if their families wouldn't, then she would.
"I thought you would be here."
Kristen looked behind her to spot Lydia. Her eyes were red from crying too. "I brought them flowers too." She came over to Kristen's side and laid her flowers down. "I can't believe it's been a year."
"Tell me about it."
Lydia glanced at her. "Kristen, I believe you're right. Never a second did I believe they killed themselves. My family told me I should drop it and move on, but I could never. Not after what happened to them—" She sobbed.
"I think we took the teasing too far," she whispered. "I think it was him that killed them. It makes sense, doesn't it? 'Believe in me' he wrote in their blood. Who else could it be?"
Kristen looked at her as she continued. "I've been good. Really good. I haven't sworn, I haven't had sex, and I kept pure thoughts in my head. I volunteered for the first time in my life and I've donated a lot of money and I gave up on material items. Yet, I don't think it's enough. This whole year I felt like someone has been watching me. An invisible presence, you can say. And I'm scared Kristen. I'm scared."
Lydia's voice became childlike as her eyes glistened with tears. "I think I'm next. He's coming after me tonight. I know it, Kristen. I know it."
"Shh shh," she hushed, pulling Lydia into a hug. "Everything will be okay."
"How?" Lydia hissed. "You didn't say you didn't believe in him. You didn't laugh at our jokes. You're safe."
"Do you want to spend the night at my house? Would that be all right?"
"Sure. Maybe with you I'll be safe."
However, Kristen's parents didn't like the idea. "Lydia can sleep at her own home. It's a holiday and she should be with her family."
"Just this once Mom and Dad," Kristen begged. "Please!"
"No Kristen. Lydia can go home," said her father. "That is final."
Kristen opened her mouth to protest, but Lydia stopped her. "Its fine, Kris. Forget it. Really."
"You sure?" she asked, worried.
She nodded. "I'll manage. Thank you. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas," Kristen echoed as she watched her friend leave her house. She had a strange feeling in her belly that it would be the last she would see of Lydia.
On Christmas morning, the family dog pushed opened Lydia's bedroom door with his nose. He ran over to his owner, whimpering softly as he licked the still wet wound on top of her head.
Fragmented pieces of glass were strewn all over the bed and floor—former ornaments that belonged to Lydia since she was born. But that was not what killed her.
Lydia's head was held down with pikes, making it the center of a Christmas wreath.
Believe in me was written above her headboard with 3 in the corner.
After Lydia's death, Dylan flipped his lid… literally. He was inconsolable, ranting and raving like a lunatic. He had run outside in his skivvies, screaming for the old bastard to come down and kill him. Put him out of his misery.
The only thing that came down was him by the authority of the police. He was becoming a threat to the community and it was the only way to bring peace back. Dylan was hospitalized but it did not take him long to give himself his own release from this Hell.
On the wall of his room, he wrote with his own blood:
4. Beat ya cocksucker
It was said he was hanging with a smile on his face.
Kristen was shocked but she was not completely surprised. Though, she still grieved for the loss of two more friends. Four… four of the people she had known since elementary school were dead. And it seemed that no one, but her, truly cared about the deaths. People kept it hushed up from the outside world, but they were telling their children that those teenagers were naughty and that was their punishment for their naughtiness.
For the first time, Kristen started to see her community with new eyes. And for the first time, she started to hate her parents.
They did not care about her friends. All they had to say was: "You're a good girl Kristen. Just like you were raised to be, unlike those devils."
She did not find much condolence from Daniel either. His solution was life was starting to become too short so let's spend every second with experiences never done before… in bed. He was literally sex-starved and he was now even more persistent ever before. What Kristen needed was a friend, not a boy toy.
Sure, they had plenty of moments of being flirtatious. They had grown up next door to each other and it was natural for them to be touchy feely. But she was not ready for their friendship to take that next step. She wasn't even sure if she could see Daniel as a boyfriend. For her, anyways.
She lay on top of her bed, staring upwards. It was two minutes until December 23rd became the 24th, Christmas Eve. Year: 1984. Two years since Kenny and Rachel died, one for Lydia and Dylan.
Kristen was never a religious person but she found herself praying more than she used to. More so since she and Daniel were the only two left. And she was afraid. Afraid that this year would be the year she would lose Daniel or even herself. Whatever was killing her friends off; it was targeting them and only them. And Kristen wasn't ready to go down without a fight.
I'll find out the truth, she decided. Then this nightmare will die for good.
The answer, she still felt, lied with Mrs. Pace. The first time she went to her, Mrs. Pace would not speak of it. She could not even look her in the eye or her own son. She kept silent.
But this year, Kristen was determined she would not be silent. Time was running short and Mrs. Pace's story might save her and Daniel.
She got up and went over to the window. Daniel was in his room, his back to her. Smirking to herself, she opened the window and threw some tiny rocks at his. He jumped, falling to the floor.
Daniel came back up, tugging up his jeans, glaring at Kristen. "What the Hell Kris? Trying to scare me to death?" His face was red.
"Sorry," she replied. "I hope I wasn't interrupting you… with you."
Daniel's face became a darker shade of crimson. "What—what do you want?"
"Danny, it's now Christmas Eve. We're next."
"You mean, I'm next," he amended. "You weren't the one goofing off the way we did. You left."
"Yeah but that doesn't mean I'm cleared. I did some pretty bad stuff, I cursed my parents."
"Whoa… you swore?"
She sighed. "Yes. Okay? I'm not always the good little girl everyone makes me out to be. Besides, don't you want to stop this?"
"What's the use? The others are dead. There's no point in escaping your punishment."
"You're giving up? That's not the Daniel Pace I know."
He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, sighing wearily. "Kris, I'm tired. Two years I've been constantly looking behind my back in fear. Nothing can appease this thing. Lydia changed completely. She became a better person but she was still killed. There is no forgiveness. No mercy."
"That could be, but don't you at least want to try and save your hide? Dying while trying is better than sitting around and doing nothing."
"I appreciate it Kris. I do. But I give up. I accept my fate. I have nothing else to live for."
"Don't say that…"
"It's true. I'm a teenager. I haven't done anything significant or important in my life."
"So far," Kristen added. "What about the future?"
"The only future I see is my grave."
She snorted in disbelief. "So you're just going to give up? That's big of you."
"Kris, you don't understand…" he sighed.
"No I don't. I want to get to the bottom of this and you're willing to throw your hands in the air? I thought you were better than that Danny. But no… all you want to do is find a way into my pants and nothing else. Are you giving up because I won't sleep with you? If so, then that is real low."
Daniel looked ashamed. "I know how you feel about it. But that's not the reason. I only want to be with you because I like you. A lot. I always had a thing for you ever since I pulled your pants down when we were kids. And now… now the dream's over. Our childhood is done. There's nothing left."
"But your mother Danny…"
"My mother won't fess up to anything. Don't you think I haven't tried? She won't say a word. Not even when her own son is marked. It's a lost cause Kristen."
"Then you haven't tried hard enough," Kristen said simply. "And I refuse to give up."
Before she could close her window, Daniel called out to her. "Wait! I'll do what I can."
She nodded. "All right. I'm coming over."
The window was locked. Opening her door quietly, Kristen checked her parents' room and was relieved the door was closed. Taking a deep breath, she tip-toed towards the staircase. Licking her lips, she placed one foot on the step and then the next. When she reached the fourth step, a low moan came from underneath her foot. Kristen halted her hearing on high alert for any sudden movements.
So far it was still silent.
"That was a close one," she whispered. She managed to climb down the rest of them with very little noise. Grinning victoriously, Kristen was halfway towards the door when the lamp in the living room flicked on.
"It's late. You should be in your room sleeping like a good girl," her mother said, "instead of sneaking out. Where do you think you're going?"
Kristen opened her mouth but she was cut off. "I know. To Daniel's. Kristen, if only you would understand. You are not part of this and if you keep it up, you will. You're going to have to let it go."
"Let it go? Mom, do you hear yourself?"
"Kristen, I know you're young and there's still a lot you have to learn but heed my advice. Daniel was nothing but a troublemaker. Always has. If anything, his mother would have some peace."
She gaped at her mother. "I cannot believe you just said that. What the Hell is wrong with you?"
Her mother shook her head. "It's fact. You need to accept that. Now go to bed."
She stared at her. "And have to live with the knowledge that my best friend will die? Doesn't anyone care? What the fuck is wrong with you and this town!"
"Kristen, I'm trying to protect you. You don't understand now, but when you have kids you will—"
"THEN TELL ME!" Kristen screamed. "YES I DON'T UNDERSTAND BUT HELP ME! TELL ME WHO HAS BEEN KILLING MY FRIENDS!"
Her mother closed her eyes. "You know already Kristen. We all do and we cannot speak of it. It's best to drop it and move on. It's the only thing that we can do."
"No…" Kristen whispered. "No it can't be." She backed away to the door. "I'm going to save Danny."
"Fuck you mom."
She slammed the door.
Kristen found the front door unlocked and saw Mrs. Pace sitting in the same spot that Lydia sat in two years ago. In her hand was a bottle quarter full of whiskey. Daniel was standing in front of her and when he turned to look at Kristen, tears were streaming down his face.
"No more lies Mrs. Pace," Kristen told her.
"I tried… I really did. But Danny's too much like his grandfather. My daddy… God, I never wanted to see that ever again," Mrs. Pace spoke softly, her eyes glazed over. "I can never forget… oh god… I was only five. I was only five…"
Daddy had been drinking. He had always been a good man—went to church every week, said his prayers, and he worked hard to give his family the life they deserved. But when he drank… the alcohol took over, turning him into a bad man.
And one Christmas, he slipped up. He said there was no such thing as Santa Claus.
That night, I was tucked into bed. But I could hear Daddy stumbling. So I got out of bed and peaked out my door.
He was swaying, muttering and cursing. I was about to go back to sleep but something caught my eye. Something fantastic, amazing, and horrifying.
A man dressed all in red—a bright red with white outlining his jacket and buttons black as coal. And his face… so warm and loving. His eyes were a gentle blue with wrinkles around from years of smiles and laughter. He had that long white beard and a very round belly that shook with each step. When he grinned! Oh… it was so beautiful. His teeth were perfectly straight and pristine, and as his lips curved his eyes sparkled.
It was Santa! He did exist.
But my joy was short-lived.
In an instant, the loving visage melted away. His crisp blue eyes had become part of the whites—a cloudy milky white with flames suddenly licking within. His even squared teeth now were crooked and razor-sharp points. He pulled off his mittens to reveal his growing claws.
I closed my eyes, believing that when I open them the Santa I knew would be standing there. But this… this monster remained. A putrid sour smell stung my nostrils, causing my eyes to tear. It was a combination of sulfur and rotten eggs, a smell that made me think of only one thing: death.
Santa reeked of death.
I wanted to warn Daddy. I wanted to scream "Santa's here!" but I couldn't. My throat locked up and I was having difficult time breathing as that stench overpowered the fresh air. Daddy did not seem to notice. Though, how could he? How could he not smell that? I was practically gagging, yet I made no noise. I was fearful that I would be discovered.
He charged. I did not see him, he was a huge blur. But I could see Daddy. One minute he was standing there, the next he was slowly falling to the ground as a whirl of red circled around him. Once he hit the ground, the blur disappeared. There was no sign of Santa or his presence. The smell was gone, but the coppery scent of blood took over.
My father lay in a pool of his own blood, his eyes bulging with a terrifying realization. It had been an accident. He did not mean it. But he was tried and condemned in seconds. I lifted his hand—stiff and cold—and pressed it to my cheek.
He was dead. And I could have saved him if I had screamed out. Santa would not have hurt him if a child was nearby, right?
A hand rested upon my shoulder. A black mitten hand. My blood chilled as I raised my face towards Santa.
"He was naughty," he said. "Always be a good girl and I'll never put you on the naughty list."
Then he vanished.
"After that, I've been good. Always. I even tried to help those dear to me. My husband, in his own stupid foolishness, made the same mistake my Daddy did. He would tease me on how a grown woman could still believe in Santa Claus. I tried to warn him, but he didn't believe me. Daniel was only a baby, but he took him anyways. And now… now he's coming back for my baby. The only family I have left. I failed you Danny. I failed you."
Mrs. Pace lowered her face and wept. "I failed you. I failed you."
Daniel cried. "No… no Mama. Don't blame yourself." He placed his hand on top of her knee. His mother lifted her face.
"Daddy?" she whispered. "Daddy, where are you?"
"No Mom. It's Danny. Danny."
She shook her head. "Daddy! I want Daddy! Where is he? Where is he! I saw Santa! Tell him he does lives!"
"Mom?" Daniel asked confused.
"He said the bad words! But I've seen him! I can still save him! I can save him!" Mrs. Pace ranted.
Kristen grabbed Daniel's arm and pulled him away. "She's gone Danny."
"No…" His bottom lip quivered as large crocodile tears fell. "I did this to her. I pushed her too far."
"You didn't know," Kristen told him. "You didn't know what happened."
"I believe in him. I believe in him now. Can't that be enough?"
Any answer was cut off by a heavy thump on top of the roof. The two teens looked at each other.
"It's not even Christmas night!" Daniel hissed.
"Nonbelievers!" They looked as Mrs. Pace pointed at them. "Nonbelievers! I curse you, you naughty children! He'll get you, but he won't get me!" She raised the glass bottle over her head.
"Mom, don't!" But Daniel's screams were no use. She slammed the bottle over her head; the shock sent her forward as she hit her head on the coffee table.
A wave of sickness went over Kristen. She gritted her teeth to ignore it as she yanked on Daniel's arm. "Come on!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.
She dragged her dazed friend to the door and ripped it opened. Running into the snow, Kristen was tugged off to the side viciously. She let go of Daniel as two pairs of arms pinned her fast.
"Get off of her!" Daniel yelled but one of her attackers punched him in the jaw. He toppled to the ground, coughing up blood. Kristen's eyes widened in shock as her father picked up Daniel and elbowed him in the stomach. Grunting, Daniel held himself as Mr. Banks' foot came crashing down on his back.
"No! Stop! STOP!" she shouted.
"More!" snarled her mother. "He's coming. He doesn't want him to run."
"Right." He bent down, took Daniel's leg, and threw it as far as he could as the bone popped. Pain ripped through Daniel as he wept and screamed.
Mr. Banks stepped away. "Pathetic."
"He's here!" Mrs. Banks said in awe.
Kristen stared as the monstrosity that Mrs. Pace had described materialized. Blood dripped from his lips into his beard, his flaming eyes glowing with hunger. Then he looked directly at her, making sure she was getting an eyeful. With an unnatural smile, his teeth glistened as he took hold of Daniel's collar and lifted him effortlessly.
"Please… no please!" Daniel whimpered as he faced him.
"Watch. You little whore," her mother spat in her ear. Kristen could not take her eyes off the terrifying scene even if she wanted to.
Santa lowered his mouth to Daniel's neck, biting off a chunk. Daniel's blood-curdling screams went unnoticed. He greedily chewed the flesh, bits of skin and blood falling into his beard. His bloodlust was not yet sated as he dug his claws into Daniel's stomach, twisting the fat. The ripping of his shirt could be heard as his screams became quieter and quieter.
It was at that moment Kristen realized she loved Daniel. She loved him more than just a friend. It was oddly perverse that her revelation came as he was being eaten alive.
"You're next," taunted her mother.
Kristen gazed as Daniel's lifeless body was tossed to the side. She was not ready to die. She slammed her foot down on her mother's and pushed her as hard as she could. Mrs. Banks was caught off guard as her daughter ran from her grasp.
She continued running. She ran with her whole heart and spirit. She had to survive. Not just for herself, but for Daniel and her friends. She owed it to them.
Kristen was heading towards the woods, hoping she would lose them. She kept on running without ever looking back.
"And Kristen Banks was never seen or heard from again. Some claimed they heard her screams deep in the woods as Santa caught her. Others claimed that she went crazy and was locked away in a mental institution. But no one knows exactly what her fate was. Though, she probably ended up dead. All nonbelievers ended up dead."
Sara gulped. "T-t-that really happened?"
Candice snorted. "Of course not! It was a story. None of it was real."
"I lied. It's past your bedtime." Candice took her sister's hand and led her up the stairs.
"Why would you make up something so horrible?" Sara asked. "Santa's good! You never should have made that up!"
"Oh, what is he going to do? Get me? Puh-leese!"
"Not another word."
Sara could not sleep. She kept thinking about what her sister said. Her story gave her the chills and every time she closed her eyes she could picture the nightmarish Santa Claus. Finally, Sara could not take it anymore.
Getting out of bed, she crossed the hall to Candice's room. She opened the door and screamed.
Candice was lying outstretched in bed, her stomach was ripped apart, blood sprayed all over her face and bed. And on the wall was written:
Believe in me